For this segment of Women In Marketing, we chat with Lerato Ramollo who is the Head of Customer Marketing at Diageo. The Port Elizabeth born marketer kept busy during her early years. From being the School Newspaper Editor all the way to being the Port Elizabeth Junior Mayor! Let’s learn more about her
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, LERATO. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in beautiful and friendly Port Elizabeth. I grew up in the 80s, so now and then, I chuckle when I think of how I loved attending protest marches and how I was captivated by the marshals who led them and I spent many days and nights dreaming of the day it would be my turn to adorn that khaki uniform and lead a march!
I think this is where my love of leadership was born… 🙂
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
I was an eager beaver of note! I did everything. I loved Economics and English and did very well in them. My academics were decent but I excelled in the social activities (extra murals).
I was the School Newspaper Editor, Deputy Chairperson of SCA, Treasurer of Interact, Captain of one of the Netball teams, Prefect and Junior Mayor of Port Elizabeth. I was a busy child!
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
A Raven because of how smart they are. To be honest, I envy how birds can simply fly off to distant lands at will. The freedom of flying up in the skies must be amazing.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
Well made oxtail!
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Easy! Pay off my bonds. Pay off all my debt. Buy a holiday home cash in St Francis, heck maybe another one in Zimbali. Send 10 girls to university – see them to completion. Start a business.
WHAT IS THE ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T FIND ON YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE? ANY HIDDEN TALENTS PERHAPS? PREVIOUS WOMEN IN MARKETING CANDIDATE, DR. LIEZEL BYGATE SAID THAT SHE IS AN EXPERT HULA-HOOPER!
I’m a master matchmaker! Be it for love, work, friendships, or just objects! I match!
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
Growing up, I loved adverts (still do to an extent) and wanted to be one of the people who put together great adverts. In the journey to get there, I stumbled across Sales , which I fell deeply in love with and ended up pursuing that to its fullest.
I am currently the Head of Customer Marketing, which is a role that sits between Marketing and (Sales)Commercial. My team and I commercialise marketing strategies.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I start my day by preparing my 3year old’s lunch, drop him off at creche, rush to work on the way either grab a cappuccino or get one at work. I’m fortunate to work in one of those offices with great coffee! If I don’t have a meeting, usually a quick catch up with a colleague or 2 and then the meeting madness starts.
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
This is a hard one…
I love what I do. I love winning so I do tend to overdo things a bit. I have a very demanding son who reminds me often that he is a priority. Recently though, (with juggling working from home) I’ve learned to set boundaries and to be happy with just “good enough”. Sometimes the best of the best is just not possible or comes at the risk of compromising myself or my son. In those cases, I’ll go with “good enough”.
YOU HAVE A GREAT RESUME. YOU’VE WORKED FOR COMPANIES SUCH AS SOUTH AFRICAN BREWERIES, BRANDHOUSE BEVERAGES AS WELL AS TIGER BRANDS. HOW IMPORTANT HAS LINKEDIN BEEN FOR YOU AND WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN LOOKING TO ESTABLISH THEIR PROFESSIONAL BRAND FOR NETWORKING PURPOSES?
Linkedin has played a crucial role in my career by opening up my network and enabled my name and CV to land on desks I would have never dreamed of.
My advice to young women is to do away with fear and self-doubt. Approach individuals who inspire you, introduce yourself, ask for advice, and share your views and opinions on the platform. Be polite and authentic.
SABRA MWAURA WAS A FEATURE FOR OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES. SHE MADE A FEW GOOD POINTS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORSHIP FOR WOMEN. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MENTORSHIP?
I’m a believer of the sayings: To whom much is given, much is expected. And: You are blessed to be a blessing. Women’s success in business (or society at large) is not going to happen by osmosis or, through some miracle.
Women who have been exposed to corporate for much longer or have access to opportunities should be holding the hands of younger women and guiding them to success. It would be a shame for younger women to make the same mistakes that we made when we were starting out.
We can assist them in bypassing those missiles. Equally so, younger women also need to be open to being coached, mentored, or guided. Entrepreneurs need to also follow suit. Those who are inside corporates need to open for young entrepreneurs wanting to get in.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
I love music. It settles me and assists me to zone in and focus on the work at hand. So I put my earphones on and get to work.
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
It depends. As individuals, we learn differently. For individuals who get into roles, quickly learn and show quantifiable achievements, and then move on, it can aid. However, where individuals just move from one job to another with no achievements to show for or noticeable learnings, this can hurt a career.
Corporates still focus a lot on employees giving them loyalty as opposed to seeking better ways of retaining talent. Companies that have invested in this have managed to maintain low levels of staff turnover. Today’s employees see the employment contract as an exchange of skills and remuneration. Loyalty is not part of that package.
FOR IT’S 2019 MOST INFLUENTIAL CMO’S REPORT, FORBES LISTED 31 WOMEN OUT OF 50 CANDIDATES (19 MEN). IT APPEARS THAT MORE WOMEN OCCUPY CMO ROLES COMPARED TO OTHER C-SUITE ROLES. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS THE CASE?
It’s a host of reasons… I could talk all day about this. I think patriarchy is still a large factor and that roles like CMO or CHRO could be perceived as low-risk roles and therefore to window dress, those roles are handed to women.
With this said, more corporations are moving to make what seems to be genuine appointments of women in roles like FD and CEO, especially in FMCG. We also can’t ignore the Glass Cliff situations, where women would be placed in other C-suite roles during a crisis period, setting them up for failure and further igniting the stereotype that women are not suitable for these roles and should remain in the Marketing and HR positions.
Corporate activism is required to change the mindsets and culture of the boys’ clubs. Women need to be groomed for these positions in a genuine manner. Looking inward though, as women, we too need to work through the imposter syndrome and dare to position ourselves and aim for the CEO or CFO roles.
In some cases where women are asked if they would go for a CEO or CFO role, the response is that they had not even considered those roles. We also need to raise our ambition and dare to dream bigger.
In cases where women have occupied these critical C-suite roles, I’ve seen them miss to leave signature female leadership stamps and instead fall into the trap of replicating the leadership styles displayed by their male counterparts seeking support and acceptance by them.
It is also the responsibility of the few women occupying these C-suite roles to change the landscape. Do not conform just to gain the support of the boys club. Open up the playing field for more women to enter. When this happens, women will gain the support they would require and build a culture of women who aspire to occupy those roles, as they would have had role models who demonstrated that it’s possible without having to be a man in a skirt.
REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN MARKETING, PARTICULARLY, IN SENIOR ROLES IS ON THE UP. IN YOUR OWN OPINION, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT WOMEN STILL FACE DESPITE THESE CHANGES AND HOW BEST SHOULD THESE BE ADDRESSED?
I believe the imposter syndrome is real. In many instances, we feel we are not worthy of these roles or don’t belong and therefore work ourselves to the bone to prove our worth beyond what is necessary.
I think with support from other women, corporate and good mentoring this can be overcome.
ONE OF THE LEARNING CURVES FOR MOST ORGANISATIONS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE PANDEMIC, IS THE SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURES TO FACILITATE REMOTE WORK. FOR TECH PLAYERS IN SILICON VALLEY THE TRANSITION WAS RELATIVELY SMOOTH WITH THE LIKES OF FACEBOOK AND TWITTER DESIGNING A FUTURE WHERE THEIR STAFF MAY POTENTIALLY WORK REMOTELY FOREVER. THE ARGUMENT THOUGH, IS THAT THIS IS LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE COMPANIES TAKEN SO LONG TO IMPLEMENT REMOTE WORK OPPORTUNITIES?
1) We didn’t see this coming this soon.
2) Control: the belief that when you see people, they are engaged and are working
3) Inability to build or maintain culture: Difficulty in implementing a culture where employees are not physically meeting and practising rituals that teams would ordinarily practice in one space (of course this is now the reality we need to work through)
WORKING FROM HOME IS AWESOME! MOST OF US CAN AGREE. HOWEVER, IT IS NOT WITHOUT IT’S SET OF CHALLENGES. EMPLOYEE WELLNESS HAS TAKEN A SIGNIFICANT STRAIN WITH PEOPLE WORKING LONGER HOURS AS A RESULT OF EMPLOYEES BEING ‘ALWAYS ON’ AND NOT BEING ABLE TO SWITCH OFF. HOW CAN EMPLOYERS GUARD AGAINST EMPLOYEE BURNOUT OR IN THE WORST EVENT, LOSING THEIR BEST TALENT?
Businesses need to be focused and simplify!
Be clear on priorities and devise simple processes to execute those priorities. As part of the culture, businesses could instil policies around cut-off times, be it lunch breaks and shut down times. I would appreciate my laptop shutting off on its own at 6 pm (obviously with a warning prior).
BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE?
Innovation is when a product responds to either a market or consumer need or a gap in the market and that doesn’t even have to marry AI.
Recent innovations that I’ve been impressed with is Bonang’s Sparkling Wine in a can! The can idea is great! One doesn’t have to carry a whole bottle to a picnic, they can take 4 cans in a beautifully convenient package that resembles a purse – it talks to the consumer and the occasion.
There has also been some great innovation in the gin space. Gin has been on the rise for some time now, . however, it has been expensive and somewhat inaccessible to lower-end consumers. Some winners in the Gin category are manufacturers who have seen this and produced decent quality Gins at accessible price points coupled with Gin ready to drink beverages!
HEMAL THAKKAR, BRAND MANAGER FOR BURGER KING INDIA IS A RECENT WOMEN IN MARKETING FEATURE. ONE OF THE KEY AREAS SHE IDENTIFIED FOR CONTINUED GROWTH IS THAT OF INFLUENCER MARKETING. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF MARKETING LOOK LIKE ACCORDING TO YOU?
I think the future of marketing will move away from personalities: influencers, brand ambassadors, etc. What will be crucial, will be memorable key brand assets. Brands whose marketing focuses on key brand assets: icons or brand tone of voice that can be easily identified will be the winners.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
You are worthy. Keep at it, the dreams you have will come true. Pay attention in accounting, you will need it in the future.
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?
Getting young people to understand the value of patiently building a career and humbling themselves enough to learn from everyone around them. Secondly; the general unwillingness to come up with solutions and not even try to work on a problem but to stop at “It doesn’t work.” or “it can’t be done”
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
I want to
Occupy a Commercial Director role.
Travel the world in 90 days.
Float on the Dead Sea.
Attend the Carnival Tabanca in Trinidad.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
‘The Path made clear ’ – Oprah Winfrey.
‘Ringfenced ’ – Samke Mhlongo.
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
A dermatologist! I have a sick obsession with squeezing out people’s blackheads.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I’m new to Netflix, so… I’m only recently getting into it… I’ve watched some of the local movies… Queen Sono, The Ramaphakela’s movies and series. Oh and I have just completed the Bridgerton series!!! And yes, I too am obsessed with His Grace! 🙂
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
So many people! Linda and Palesa… my good friends from Tiger are top of my mind right now. Maggie Chaba, a good friend of mine, I haven’t spoken to in a long time, whose passing I heard of yesterday. I pray that her soul is resting in peace.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Understand the entire landscape. Understand not only the consumer but the shopper, the customer, and the people who will be selling the product (Sales Staff).
Good understanding of the P&L is crucial. Start acquainting yourself early on. Respect the sales community, without them and customers, the product cannot be sold.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME LERATO. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA?